When interviewing prospective service providers for your vacation rental, here are some questions to address:
1. How long have you been in the business? It's great to give a newbie a chance, but it could also be helpful to know how long your housekeeper has been cleaning homes or how long your plumber has been in business. Experience translates to preparedness, and someone who's been doing the job for a few years might be better able to react to problems or prevent them from occurring in the first place.
2. Have you worked with vacation rentals? Someone who works with vacation rentals will likely be familiar with the tasks involved and the importance of communication with the owners, especially when they live far away. Plus, they will understand the urgency of the situation when paying guests are involved.
3. Are you licensed/bonded/insured? Remember that many of your service providers will have access to your home, and potentially, your guests, so they have to be trustworthy. You want to make sure that they adhere to local laws and regulations, that they will complete the job(s) as promised, and if they break something, they have insurance to pay for it.
4. Do you have any other clients in this building/area? Asking about other nearby customers could give you some insight into the number of people in your service provider's client base and also their familiarity with your market. Plus, you may find out that you know other people using this same provider.
5. How available are you for new clients? Even if you find a service provider you love, they’ll be no use to you if they’re not around to accommodate your requests. If you find out your pool service company has 4,000 other pools to clean or your tree trimmer can't give you an appointment until the year 2020, it might be tough to rely on them. This is also a good opportunity to find out if they run a one-man operation or employ a full staff.
6. How flexible is your schedule? Determining the availability of your service provider can give you an idea of how flexible they will be in the event of an emergency. In other words, if you had a mid-week check-in, would your housekeeper be available? If you have a last-minute booking, how much notice do you need to provide? What if your renters are locked out or missing keys? When you have guests staying at your home, it is critical to determine your service provider’s flexibility in emergency situations. (It might also require a little flexibility on your end if you have your heart set on a particular person. For example, you might have to switch your check-in and checkout dates from Saturday-Saturday to Friday-Friday in order to work better with your housekeeper's schedule.)
7. How much do you charge? Let's face it: Finding someone you can trust is extremely important, but it also has to work with your budget. Get clear answers about the price per visit and costs for additional services - surprises are just not fun when it comes to bills.
8. What is your preferred method of communication? Determine whether you are better off reaching them at an office phone or on a cell phone, and how often they check e-mail. Be sure to mention that while last-minute emergencies aren’t the norm, they are possible. Being able to get in contact quickly is key.
9. How do you handle billing? You'll also need to establish whether you will pay the provider by the month or per visit, and whether they will be sending you a bill or simply expecting payment on a specified date. The billing cycle will likely be determined by the type of service and how often you use them.
10. How do you accept payment? Find out whether you'll have to mail checks, or if he/she accepts credit cards. Perhaps you can even set up automatic bill-pay for routine services.
11. What supplies do you provide? Some housekeepers bring toilet paper, paper towels, small bars of soap and other items to stock your home. You should determine what exactly you are getting for your money. You also want to be sure that your service providers have the tools and parts they need to do their jobs. Will your housekeeper bring her own cleaning supplies? If you hire the teenager down the street to mow your lawn, does he have his own lawnmower?
12. What additional services do you provide, beyond the basics? Is your housekeeper willing to go out and purchase light bulbs when they burn out? Will the landscaper be willing to seal the driveway when needed? If not, you can always ask if they know of someone else in their company or network that is willing to help with those types of tasks.
13. Can I have three references to contact? Once you've received answers to all or most of the above questions, you'll want to speak with other people (preferably vacation rental owners) that have used their services. Requesting references is probably the second most important part of the interviewing and hiring process. The most important part – actually contacting them! Be sure to ask specific questions about the service provider's reliability and communication skills and their overall satisfaction with the jobs performed.
While finding a great service provider can be time-consuming, you will certainly be thankful to have someone on which to rely. In the end, the rewards of hiring trustworthy and reliable help will far exceed the effort of finding them.